By Peter LaVenia, Green Party of New York State
Opportunity-to-ballot (OTB) is the most insidious in a line of electoral hassles Greens in New York face while defending the party’s ballot line. State election law allows for non-party members, especially Democrats and Republicans to circulate a petition amongst registered party members which would allow for a write-in spot during a primary election. If no actual Green members are running, the line goes to the petitioner. Since candidates can run on multiple ballot lines in New York State, this typically means candidates from larger parties try to steal lines in places where Green locals are not able to field candidates.
Candidates circulating OTB petitions rarely tell Green enrollees the truth about the petitions; party members have, time and again, encountered candidates and their campaign workers who lie about the true purpose of the OTB petitions, often stating it is for a member of the party.
Given the disingenuous nature of OTB, the state party has argued that it limits the rights of party members to control their own party ballot line, to know a Green is on the ballot line, and adds to the confusion generated by ballot-line fusion.
The Green Party of New York has engaged in a number of tactics in order to prevent OTBs: running candidates recruited to fend off line-stealing challenges; enrollee outreach to let them know about the possibility of OTBs and to refuse to sign for them; and organizing to push the state legislature to eliminate OTBs in election-law reform. All this has become necessary to protect the Green line, but draws much resources and energy away from real Green campaigns and other party activities.
Solving the OTB problem requires us to build our local organizations to the point where we run candidates consistently in as many races as possible, undermining the Democratic and Republican drive to steal ballot positions. We also need to convince the public—and given the lack of faith in our electoral system it shouldn’t take much— that election reform means empowering voters through proportional representation, not multiple ballot lines for a single candidate.
It’s another hurdle for the Green Party of New York to face, but as we do with all challenges, we do so looking to increase grassroots democratic rights and a successful fight against opportunity-to-ballot would do just that.